Renaming the Gordie Howe Hat Trick

| David M Singer

Everyone loves a Gordie Howe Hat Trick.  For any hard-working player, it’s an achievement to be proud of, some numbers proving you contributed all over.  Almost as good as one of those good ole normal hat tricks?  To some, yes.

There’s a dirty little secret though: Gordie Howe only had a couple of Gordie Howe Hat Tricks.  It’s a tough thing to bring up in hockey circles.  Mr. Hockey is revered, and rightfully so.  He was the ultimate combination of skill and toughness.  Suggesting the GHHT should have a different name is blasphemy to some.

I’ve had this conversation with quite a few people.  Where’d the name come from?  Why?  If we were to rename it, what would we call it?

The origin has no concrete answer.

The why, in the end, is probably the easiest answer.  At least, why we haven’t renamed it.  Gordie Howe is known, respected, and few care to look at the stats in what some would see as an attempt to bring his reputation down.

What would we rename it?  There are some good options, and this question is probably why it’s become a conversation I’ve had so many times.

Two people I’ve spoken with are CBC’s Jeff Marek and hockey research superstar Paul Patskou.  With Paul’s help, Jeff has laid out all the facts and numbers available.

However, like many of you, I’m curious where the phrase Gordie Howe hat trick came from. He was not the first player to register a goal, assist and fight in a game, that distinction belongs to Toronto Arena’s Harry Cameron who did so on Dec. 26, 1917. Yes, he did it on Boxing Day, how appropriate.

A surprising number

Howe didn’t accomplish the feat the most times, either. For a while Rick Tocchet held the unofficial record, which has since been broken, we believe, by both Shanahan and Iginla. In fact, Howe, as you will see below, only accomplished the “trick” twice.

Yes, twice.

Heck, Sidney Crosby is half way there already.

Perhaps the term is more symbolic than anything, indicative of a spirit as opposed to a fact.

Nonetheless, in order to try and put this issue to bed, here is the list of Howe’s confirmed NHL fights with brief analysis of some based on limited video evidence and newspaper reports.

Again, this isn’t about trying to prove anything negative about Mr. Howe, it’s simply following through when the question “why is it called a Gordie Howe Hat Trick?” was asked.

The accuracy on any current GHHT counts is iffy, but as Jeff and Paul suggested, it’s thought that Brendan Shanahan and Jarome Iginla have surpassed Rick Tocchet for the career lead.

There are other great powerforwards from the modern game who also embodied the skill and toughness blend general managers would kill for.  Two that come to mind right away are Leafs legend Wendel Clark and Boston favorite Cam Neely, who every hard-hitting rookie is inevitably compared to.

Does it matter that this unofficial, but popular statistic is named after a man legend, who only accomplished the feat twice?  If so, who would you rename it after?